What Else Can $700 Billion Buy?

A while back the New York Times was concerned about the cost of the Iraq War and published some estimates of what else we could have bought with that money. We didn’t find that very interesting at the time, but now, while trying to wrap our minds around just how effing huge the $700 billion proposed bailout of Wall Street really is, we decided to revisit that article. Here’s what you can buy for less than $700 billion, according to the New York Times.

For $100 Billion you can Universal Health Care for all people in the U.S. without it.

For $35 Billion you can get universal preschool. Half-days for 3-year-olds and full days for 4-year-olds.

For $10 Billion you can carry out all the security recommendations issued by the 9/11 commission.

All these costs are annual. We’re not saying this is how we should spend the money, but it does give you an idea of what a large amount we’re talking about.

Putting the annual cost of war into perspective [NYT]
(Photo: donbuciak )


Edit Your Comment

  1. donnie5 says:

    This is a good article. Really puts things in perspective. Good thing we want to bail out the fat cats first…

  2. Mfalconieri says:

    For 700 billion you could also line the pockets of all Bush’s cronies, then bail them out again, then line them again.

  3. BlondeGrlz says:

    It seems to me if you used the money for all those things, the economy might do better anyways. A healthier, better educated, safer future sure couldn’t hurt.

    • @BlondeGrlz: Oh yes it could — the big boys wouldn’t get to keep making money off the backs of hard-working, 40-hour-per week wage jockeys!

    • Angryrider says:

      @BlondeGrlz: Yes it would! It would teach the average American citizen to expect too much from their government. And if he doesn’t, then he’ll learn to undermine our values!

    • Lordstrom says:

      @BlondeGrlz: I’d love to know how exactly putting four year olds in glorified prisons make them “better educated”. The brainwashing begins too early as it is.

      • Zkdog says:

        @lorddave: I wouldn’t nessicarily say that a government run preschool would be “educational” to the nations children, but it would free up alot of people who stay at home with their kids because they can’t afford daycare. Should lower unemployment and boost the work force.

  4. odoketa says:

    Ah, but you’ve forgotten – since the article in the NYT was written, there’s been massive inflation in the US. So once you deflate those numbers, it turns out 700 billion only buys a couple tanks of gas.

  5. Yurei says:

    Short answer: Anything I want, pretty much.

    You suppose someone can buy the US for 700 billion yet? Or are we still worth a bit more? Once the markets slide a little further into oblivion, I expect some other country will snap us poor americans up just to rub our faces in it. Good grief.

    Someone please tell me why with that 700 billion I can’t have health care? Please explain it to my pathetic miserable puppy eyes anmd see how wretched you feel afterwards, effing polititans. “Find a job with health benefits” people say. Oh sure, that’s fine- except that every one wants to hire people at PT and not FT around here so they don’t have to pay them out *sigh*

    • veronykah says:

      @Yurei: Exactly, and what about entrepreneurs? The small business owners that politicians are always talking about? When you start your own business or freelance you DON’T GET HEALTHCARE.
      I’m a freelancer and a bartender, I can’t get a job with healthcare benefits. I guess since I’m 29, I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.

      • resonanteye says:


        politicians that don’t support universal health care do not support small business. bottom line, no joke, reality check.

        I suppose fo 700 billion they could spare about 3 grand so I can get my teeth fixed?

  6. nicemarmot617 says:

    It’s not really the money that bothers me. It’s the idea of making that incompetent ass Paulson the Divine King of Finance that really makes me angry.

  7. Canino says:

    Yep, $700 billion will buy a lot of socialism.

    • Daemonstar says:

      @Canino: I was thinking the same thing. People take issue with the Government running their finances, but not-so-much when it comes to health care or education?

      • Inglix_the_Mad says:

        @Daemonstar: Most laissez-faire free-marketeers are only that way until they (or their family / friends) are about to be f*cked over by the market. Notice: Investment banks. For years they complained to get regulations loosened, for the ability to “let the market work it’s magic.” Now then, the market has worked it’s magic, and what do they want? WELFARE

        It’s amazing that that Corporate Welfare is just honky dory. Corporate Socialism is just peachy keen. 700 billion to save these companies from bad decisions is just shiny.

        What happened to the beloved market principles? Well, simple, as long as they were getting theirs, the market worked. Now that they’re in danger of losing theirs, the market “needs help.”

        Socialize the risk, privatize the profit, it’s the Fascist way. Fascists pretend to be doing things for “the people” or “the country.” In reality, fascists only worry about themselves.


        The sucking and blowing of these morons is astounding.

    • glater says:


      It sure will! Social health care, social education, social services for all people – not welfare for megacorporations and subsidized private losses!

      Yay socialism, the money of the people being used to help the people, not just line the pockets of the already wealthy and powerful!

      • bishophicks says:

        Yes, just toss the Socialism grenade to try and end the discussion. Unfettered free markets have gotten us the S&L crisis, Enron and now this giant mess.

        For the past 8 years this administration has told us that any social program was “too expensive” while at the same time adding 4 Trillion dollars to the national debt (probably 5T by the time they’re out of office). What has it gotten us? If we had spent the money on infrastructure our roads and bridges would be in good repair, if we spent it on health care, we’d be healthier, if we spent it on a bunch of giant solar farms and a national direct current transmission system we’d at least have added a bunch of clean power to the grid and reduced pollution.

        By the time this administration is out the door, they will have overspent by 5 trillion dollars and we will have literally nothing to show for it. If there is so much money available for a completely unnecessary war and money available to bail out financiers who took absolutely ridiculous risks, then there ought to be money for a national health care program. Remove the health insurance companies from the picture with their 25% overhead and teams of lawyers, employees, forms and policies that do nothing but figure out how to deny coverage, and it will probably be cheaper overall than the system we have now.

    • ShawnD says:

      @Canino: Wow. So if you don’t like the idea of a tad bit of Socialism then maybe we can get rid of public fire departments, public police, public courts, attorney generals, public school (which would work better if greed wasn’t a priority), public roads, state parks, and many more. You would think twice to call the police during a robbery or call the fire department for a fire if they required credit checks and/or upfront deposits and payments. Something people with no health insurance have to do all the time! When government infringes too much on personal freedoms, then I will call shenanigans. But I could care less if the government regulated corporations. Lets not forget what FDR said during the great depression,

      “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.” Franklin D. Roosevelt April 29, 1938

  8. crabbyman6 says:

    How dare you mention the socialist idea of universal health care? We need that so the government can buy up all the banks to fight socialist ideals like that.

    Oh wait

  9. nycaviation says:

    At their current market values, $700 billion could actually buy all of the nation’s largest banks outright. A SmartMoney columnist makes a pretty strong case for doing this, so the government would get the good, profitable parts of the banks rather than just the toxic junk they can’t get rid of.


    • crabbyman6 says:

      @nycaviation: ohhh, good article. Since all this started I’ve often wondered if this was feasible. At this point it may benefit us to buy them all up, clean up their act(as much as can be expected for Washington) while making some scratch and sell them off in chunks to break up the “too big to fail”ness of them. What’s another few billion to buy the banks and not just their trash? Maybe the profits could be used to fund things like universal healthcare so we don’t just get the ass end of socialism, since that’s where we seem to be going anyway.

  10. TMurphy says:

    Let’s give the 700 billion to Sweden for them to come over here and run things for us for a while.

  11. balthisar says:

    To put it into another perspective, it’s only about $2300 for every head in the United States. It looks huge in aggregate, and if we all had that much of a tax increase, all the poor people (who get refunds due to tax credits without paying taxes) would be pitching a fit, but on a per capita basis in the USA, it’s not overly burdensome.

    • Starfury says:

      @balthisar: So if it’s $2300 per person then my 4 person family needs to pay $9200 to the government to bail out these banks.

      I’ll get right on that.

      • Xay says:

        @veronykah: Because the working class and the middle class absorb tax increases just fine!

        I know that for my two person household (one being a child), I could absorb a tax increase that equals 12% of my income just fine.

    • sockrockinbeats says:

      @balthisar: Only $2300?! I don’t think I’ve ever even SEEN $2300.

    • veronykah says:

      @balthisar: Of course, because its always the poor people pitching fits about tax increases.

    • Wally East says:

      @balthisar: So, I can, for example, either buy a great new TV/put the money in my IRA (err, which is a better investment at this point?) or I can the money to someone who wants to continue to run a business they’ve already bankrupted? Hmmmmm.

    • You Cannot Untoast says:


      What’s your definition of poor?

      I no longer consider myself poor, as I have moved up in my career, but I remember being above the poverty line, yet still struggling to make ends meet, and doing without healthcare. Emergency expenses, such as car repairs – because poor people sometimes have to drive shitty cars – left me in a hole that took years to get out of. And I payed taxes.

      So stop parroting Rush Limbaugh or whoever you’re channeling. Generalizations like these just prove you’re intellectually lazy.

    • edosan says:

      @balthisar: if an extra $2300 for every man, woman, and child in the United States is “not overly burdensome” for you, could you pay our $4600? I’m a little short right now.


  12. Carso says:

    Slate.com has a great article today in which the author tries to put $70b in perspective with other significant financial outlays the US has faced in the past. Very interesting!


  13. Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

    700 Billion Dollars can buy you 700000 $10,000 whores for a night… Bam!

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    Would $700,000,000,000 be enough to buy an Edit button?

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    I luuuuv them nature type shows, Nova, BBC and all of them.
    The thing that astounds is how little money various projects like these – science, ecology, archeology, animal habitat improvement, etc. – cost. Heck, even big-ticket astronomy ones pale in comparison to these Wall Street Bailout figures.
    Think of the good – for knowledge, for the world – that just a sliver of the amounts we’re discussing can do. And think of how it would help repair America’s tattered image. Sigh.

  16. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    For $790 billion you could pay off all US credit card debt.

    • Methusalah says:

      @IfThenElvis: Which would be rather aggravating for those of us without it.

    • lincolnparadox says:

      @IfThenElvis: I like that plan. Do that.

      Or, for about $1 trillion dollars, we could just pay off all of the bad mortgages. Switch them over to federal loans to individuals, not banks.

      That way, no one loses their homes AND they get a fair interest rate from the government.

      The government gets its money back, with interest, over the next 10-30 years.

      The banks get their capital right away, they can become solvent again, and start looking for other ways to screw the taxpayer out of money.

      Everyone wins. Nobody loses. The economy is saved.

      All hail Lincoln Paradox!

  17. You could build 4 more International Space Stations for $700 Billion, and still have 70 Billion left over to fund all of NASA’s operations for the next 5 years.

    Or, maybe, build a manned space station that orbits Mars. That would be cool.

  18. Bladefist says:

    It could (but I doubt it) be enough to fund the education of all Americans of what is happening to our economy, how it happened, and how to prevent it. Nah. Probably not.

  19. xamarshahx says:

    again, this is not free money, if these companies come out of this ok, the US government will make money. the 85 bill AIG got was at 12% interest.

  20. TouchMyMonkey says:

    What I once said about the war in Iraq is even more true here. You could buy every seat in every university in the entire country for that, and have enough left over for beer. Kegger, anyone?

  21. Angryrider says:

    Hmmm… A Universal healthcare system that pwns the UK’s would be nice… But the insurance lobby isn’t going to take that lying down. They’ll complain that the issue of choice is at hand here, despite the fact that it’s the company’s choice to choose whether you get that treatment or die.

    Or use that money, something with the HUD, and rebuild those neighborhoods that were forclosed. Revive New Deal policies everyone?

  22. OrlandoMoose says:

    So, taxation without representation is OK with you? If I remember correctly, unjust taxes (Boston Tea Party anyone?) is one of the main reasons people actually died to create this country. To put it in terms you may understand, you’re saying those troops all died for no reason at all.

    • smartmuffin says:

      @OrlandoMoose: And yet… if the government did nothing, everyone would accuse them of standing by and watching the financial system collapse and not protecting the American people. I don’t envy the politicians on this one… no matter what they do everyone is going to complain about it. Which probably explains why the folks who rely on elections to get a paycheck (congress) are all pretty non-commital on this thing, but most of the folks who don’t (Bernanke, Paulson, Bush in a few more months) are taking more of a specific stand.

    • papahoth says:

      @OrlandoMoose: If you are going to troll here, you should learn how to create replies so we have some idea what you are talking about.

    • Parting says:

      @OrlandoMoose: I’m not sure what you wanted to say…

  23. FoobieBlecch says:

    Or, you could give the money back to the people from whom it was seized in the first place.

    • papahoth says:

      @FoobieBlecch: Who seized your money? Clearly not the government of the United States elected under the rules of the Constitution who’s laws you agree to abide by since you are living here?

  24. FLConsumer says:

    +1 Meg!

  25. Saboth says:

    I’ve always marveled at our war with Iraq. If 100 billion can get healthcare for everyone without it, then:

    100 billion gives healthcare to 15-20% of the population.
    100,000,000,000 = 20%

    1 trillion:
    1,000,000,000,000 = 200%?

    So for 1/3 the cost of the war, we could all have healthcare?

  26. papahoth says:

    Help me out here. This is the biggest intervention in private industry since the great depression by the Roosevelt Administration. What happened to the Bush’s administration’s conservative principals? The answer is they provide no solution to this problem is where they are. Oh, I know, Bush, Paulson and Cheney are not really conservative they are, well not sure what they are then. Must be some type of Twilight Zone type of thing. So the real conservatives, whomever they are, are instead saying we should?

    Well this is reaping the fruit of Bill Buckley. Everything in the New Deal is bad, government should stay out of business. Too bad shit for brains is not alive to see this.

  27. yagisencho says:


  28. failurate says:

    Medical bills is one of the top reasons for bankruptcy. So, no medical bills, fewer bankruptcies… fewer bankruptcies, fewer foreclosures…. fewer foreclosures, no $700 billion dollar bail out.
    I would gladly pay in taxes now what I pay in medical expenses, so that I wouldn’t have to run the risk of paying even more in medical expenses. Cause even with insurance, I could totally be ruined by our current system.

  29. sabrinad says:

    I actually did a little math on this the other day, while particularly frustrated with the idea. Based on the published pricing on their web site, figuring a 20% bulk discount, and using 2007 population figures, for the price of the bailout, we could ship nearly 8 boxes of bulk Smarties(tm) candies, over 210,000 individual sugary treats, to every man, woman, and especially child in the United States. (Plus, they’re manufactured here in the States and in Canada, so we probably wouldn’t even get poisoned by melamine! Bonus!)

  30. nacoran says:

    700 billion could:

    Put 28 million Prius on the road in place of gas guzzlers


    Put $10,000 worth of solar cells on the roof of 70 million homes


    Could replace 28 billion incandescent bulbs with CFL’s at a generous $5 a bulb. That’s nearly 100 bulbs a person.

    • sam-i-am says:

      “700 billion could:

      Put 28 million Prius on the road in place of gas guzzlers”@nacoran: You’d be hard pressed to find 28 million people who want to drive one of those inefficient pieces of crap. That’s right, I said inefficient.

  31. BevisHeron says:

    Simple pump half into solar & wind projects to be run at state levels. Take the other half and buy the major banks outright. “Don’t take no for an answer”
    Then once that money is gone get the FBI to hire some forensic accountants and retrieve all the money stolen from the American people in the last 10 or so years by the jerks in our government, remove the money from their pockets and set it all back to normal.

  32. sam-i-am says:

    oh oh oh wait wait! you can buy 2,000 McDonald’s Apple Pies for EVERYONE IN AMERICA!


  33. Brazell says:

    hvn’t sn th Cnsmrst prsnt n ccrt rtcl n th cnmc crss r th blt, nt nc n t lst mnth.

  34. There almost ISN’T anything that would be a worse investment of $700 billion (even if it is an imaginary $700 billion) than using it to rescue rich people who got themselves in trouble by being immoral and/or stupid.

    What angers me the most, though, is that we repeatedly “don’t have the money” to provide health care for our citizens…but we have the money for THIS?

  35. narq says:

    Does it matter really? We’ll never see that money our lifetime. Being in debt to everyone, now that’s being a true American. How long until China owns the land we live on?

  36. ImeldaCreon says:

    Only $700 billion? That’s cheap! That’s only 1,000X more than Paulson earned in his 32 years working for Goldman Sachs (yes, $700,000,000 … that’s only $2,500 per hour 24 hours a day 7 days a week). A bargain at half the price!

  37. B1663R says:

    You can also buy a Toyota Yaris or a Honda Civic for every Canadian for that much.